Twelve-year-old Irfan, who had suffered serious brain damage following an accident at Karikkakom in 2011, passed away on Monday.

God gave us a child and took one away Heartbroken Irfans family mourns his death
news Death Monday, December 17, 2018 - 17:41

Shopkeepers, men and women outside the gates of their houses, give directions to Irfan’s house, before you ask. Keep going straight ahead, they say. The road turning from the Chakai bypass towards Karikkakom in Thiruvananthapuram goes way inside, taking you through the deadly Parvathy Puthannar canal. It is in this canal that five of Irfan’s classmates and their caretaker fell to their death nearly eight years ago. An accident and the fall of a school bus into the waters had taken away their lives, while Irfan, who survived, suffered serious brain damage. After an eight-year-long battle to stay alive, the lone survivor of the Karikkakom bus tragedy passed away on Monday morning at the age of 12.

All of the neighbourhood has gathered at Irfan’s house to pay their last respects. As new visitors approach, someone has taken charge of lifting the white cloth covering Irfan’s familiar little face that had been on newspaper pages several times. His picture - two little eyes raised upward and a surgical mask covering half the face - got printed year after year - when Irfan went to Vellore for treatment, when it was thought he’d come back to life, when he got a new house at Karikkakom.

Nothing, it seems, saved the boy. “God gave them a child and took away another,” says Arifa, Irfan’s grandmother. She is talking about Inaya, the baby girl, born to Irfan’s parents two months ago. The little sister he did not get to know. She lies down next to her mother, Sajini, crowded by women of the family and the neighbourhood, unaware of her brother’s passing. Someone prompts Sajini to speak. “You took care of him all this while. Talk, Sajini,” an older woman tells her. But Sajini does not wish to. “There was a little improvement when we took him to Vellore three months after the accident. He could hear, look at us. He felt pain and hunger, I knew through his cries. I knew he sensed my presence,” she says, before breaking down.

Sajini never went out all these years, she was with her son all the time, her mother-in-law says. “I’d tell her there is Allah with you, who saw how much care she took.”

Parvathy Puthannar canal

Sajini’s mother Rasiya Beevi recounts how they had waited for seven to eight years for a child before Irfan was born. “He was four and one fourth when the accident happened. The family would move between the Kims hospital and home. Last week we had taken him to Kims. His stomach had been upset for a few days. Today again, we were supposed to take him to the hospital. We didn’t expect this,” Rasiya says.

Irfan’s father Shajahan was in the Gulf and had come home to start a small business at the time of the accident. “The changing governments have taken care of all the treatment expenses. There has been a lot of support from the neighbourhood and the media too,” he says.

Shajahan was also given a job by the government, at the Shishu Kshema Vakuppu (Child Welfare Department). The family had a new house built by the Oommen Chandy government four years ago.

“The CM at the time of the accident was VS Achuthanandan, and then a couple of months later, it was Oommen Chandy. They have both been helpful. The present government too had been supportive,” says Baiju, who lives next door, and whose daughter Arsha had been killed in the same tragic accident in February, 2011. Following the accident, Irfan had been trapped under water for 20 minutes and suffered a brain injury before falling into a coma, Baiju remembers.

“Every year we have a commemoration of the children who passed away in that accident – at Smrithimandapam. Suresh Gopi, Manju Warrier and other celebrities have come to attend it,” Baiju says. This February, there would be one more child remembered, who in Baiju’s words, was once a cheerful and smart little boy like any other kid his age. 

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